Editor’s Note: This post is concerning a feature in Android N. As this new version of Android is still in development, the features described in this post could change between the time of the writing and when it is released to the public in the summer of 2016.
As I dig further into Android N, another nice improvement to a feature already there has surfaced that will benefit users on low data allowances. Data Usage has been in Android a while and in Marshmallow is pretty good at giving you notifications on when you are approaching your cellular data threshold for the month and, in fact, can even be configured to disable your data once you hit that threshold to avoid overages. But it is somewhat of an all or nothing proposition and while you can go into Data Usage and restrict apps from using data, it is again an all or nothing. That appears to be changing in Android N.
Under Settings>Data Usage, there is a new option for Data Saver. When this is enabled, you can then select which apps have access to cellular data and which ones don’t with a simple white list-style approach. No more having to go into each and every app. You have a simple screen with all your apps that you can use a toggle to indicate that app will have unrestricted network access. If it isn’t enabled, it doesn’t get access. It is clean and simple.
So think of it this way: If you enable Data Saver on your device running Android N and are on cellular data, the only app that will have unrestricted access by default is Google Play Services (which as I described, is somewhat of a “glue” app between your phone and Google – it’s important it have access to things) so no more background data checking. The only way an app can use background data is if you have allowed it on this approved list in the settings.
Further, if you have Data Saver enabled, the apps that you have white listed are allowed to go full-bore on your data plan. They are still instructed to use less data and this is something Android controls.
Much like the improvements to Doze in Android N, the changes in Data Saver are not revolutionary but logical steps forward for the feature.